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New app helps the hunt for Meteorites

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Spotted a fireball in the sky? Capture it with a newly launched smartphone app and Curtin University researchers will be able to send back details on what made your fireball, and where it came from in the Solar System.

The app, Fireballs in the Sky, was developed by the Desert Fireball Network, a Curtin University project designed to track meteorites as they fall to Earth, by capturing meteors and fireballs on camera, in collaboration with ThoughtWorks, and Curtin Geoscience Outreach.

Professor Phil Bland, leader of the Desert Fireball Network and planetary scientist from Curtin’s Department of Applied Geology said the app can be used by anyone around the world and will build on the data collected so far about meteorites.

“It’s free, fun to use, and it has a very easy interface – simply point at the sky where you think the fireball started and click on your phone, and do the same for where you think it ended,” Professor Bland said.

“If we get enough observations we can determine a trajectory and send that information back to you – for instance, you might get a message that the rock that made your fireball came from the outer asteroid belt, or that it was a chunk of a comet.”

The Desert Fireball Network team of researchers have placed sophisticated cameras in various remote locations throughout Australia, and are currently servicing and installing new cameras as part of the network.

Capturing fireballs on camera as they streak through the sky allows the team to employ sophisticated mathematical techniques to calculate the orbit and origin of meteorites – and to calculate where they have landed.

“Australia is a really great country for meteorite searching because it is flat and there’s not much vegetation or grass around, making it easy to see a small black rock on the ground,” Professor Bland said.

Professor Bland said the app is designed so the team can potentially get data of sufficient quality to create a global crowd source smartphone fireball network.

The app also includes images and updates from the project and is available for both iOS and Android, by searching ‘fireballs in the sky’ in app stores.

The Desert Fireball Network is supported by an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship.

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